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"Isolation-Preference" in Children on the Autism Spectrum

“Is it typical for a child with High Functioning Autism to not have any friends? My son prefers to play by himself. Is this normal? Any suggestions on how to help him make some friends? I think he would love to have at least one good friend that understood him :)”

Kids with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) and Asperger’s (AS) do indeed experience difficulty developing relationships, responding appropriately, and interacting with others with ease. Certain qualities of human interaction are very difficult for these children.

Typically, people communicate with each other through verbal (e.g., speech) as well as nonverbal (e.g., eye-to-eye gaze, gestures, body posture, etc.) communication. While verbal ability is often a strength for children with HFA and AS, nonverbal communication is usually an area of difficulty. They tend to overlook - or don’t recognize - the meaning behind another person’s gestures or facial expressions.

This means that they frequently miss the cues they are given that the other person wants to leave, is getting bored, or wants to say something herself. Professionals refer to this phenomenon as impaired social interaction.

Impaired social interaction means that the HFA or AS child has difficulty making and keeping friends. As can be imagined, interacting with someone who does not understand or use nonverbal communication can be awkward. As a result, some people avoid the HFA or AS child, and relationships do not develop.

When friendships do occur, they are usually built on a shared area of interest. That interest is typically the focus of the intense interest and preoccupation of the child on the autism spectrum. Maintaining such friendships can be difficult because the child can be rigid and inflexible regarding the area of interest. In other words, his conversation rarely addresses other topics, and he tends to be the center of any conversation about the topic (leaving the other person to listen rather than contribute to a discussion).

Because the HFA or AS child is so focused on this interest, he often knows a great deal of detailed information about it. This can often be intimidating to other kids who do not feel as much like an “expert.”

Impaired social interaction also encompasses the disturbing social situations that many kids on the spectrum encounter. The term “playground predator” has often been used to describe kids who intentionally and vindictively single out a “special needs” youngster for teasing and taunting. Bullies often pick on kids who are “easy targets” and vulnerable.

With their difficulties understanding nonverbal cues and having limited social support, young people with HFA and AS are often the targets of bullies. This results in even more “isolation-preference” (i.e., preferring to play alone).

Click here for information on how to help your HFA or AS child to make and keep friends…

More resources for parents of children and teens with High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's:

==> How To Prevent Meltdowns and Tantrums In Children With High-Functioning Autism and Asperger's

==> Parenting System that Significantly Reduces Defiant Behavior in Teens with Aspergers and High-Functioning Autism

==> Launching Adult Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Guide for Parents Who Want to Promote Self-Reliance

==> Teaching Social Skills and Emotion Management to Children and Teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism

==> Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism: Comprehensive Handbook

==> Unraveling The Mystery Behind Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism: Audio Book

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


•    Anonymous said… yes it is I myself have aspergers and my mother told me even in preschool id be by myself while other children were playing. try finding something that he really loves because people with aspergers form obsesions with things ie electronics, cars, music. For me it was swords and i found a friend who also liked them. try finding an interest he has and see if there are any that share that. i hope this helps.
•    Anonymous said… Social skills classes starting as early as possible and ABA. My child is thriving socially and had a lot of therapy starting at age 3. She's 5 now.
•    Anonymous said… A lot of kids with HFASD desire friends but struggle to make and then keep them. I have a son who is now almost 18 and has made 1 friend who is very similar to him - other people wouldn't recognise their relationship as a friendship as even when they are in the same room they don't talk to each other and they don't organise get togethers etc! However, throughout his whole life my boy has been very comfortable with his own company and so the only person the lack of friends thing bothered was me. Let it be - he will make a friend or two at some stage and his company will probably be much enjoyed by older people including workmates when he gets to that stage as they get on better with older and younger people rather than their peer group.

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Fostering the Development of Self-Reliance in Children on the Autism Spectrum

For kids with AS and HFA, acquiring skills related to self-reliance is especially important. This is because their ability to express themselves clearly or interact with others may look different than what other kids typically do. Some grown-ups may mistakenly provide more support for a youngster on the autism spectrum than she actually needs. When a youngster is consistently prevented from taking even small risks, she will learn to feel helpless and dependent, rather than self-reliant.

Self-reliance is not about letting the child make every single decision that affects his life (e.g., what time to go to bed, deciding not to wear a coat in the winter time, etc.). Kids need very clear expectations, protection from harm, and loving guidance. Self-reliance is about providing opportunities so that AS and HFA kids develop the skills necessary to become independent, as well as to interact freely and joyfully within their environment.

Click here for the full article...

Diversion Tactics for Parents of Aspergers and High-Functioning Autistic Kids

While diversion tactics come in handy with any youngster, it's particularly imperative for kids with an Autism Spectrum Disorder who are often significantly less able to amuse themselves, negotiate transitions, or avoid meltdowns. 

Resources for parents of children and teens on the autism spectrum


The Female Version of High-Functioning Autism

"Do girls experience high functioning autism differently compared to boys?"

Yes, however far fewer females are diagnosed with High-Functioning Autism (HFA) than males. Earlier, the ratio was believed to be 1 girl to every 10 boys was diagnosed with HFA. Currently however that ratio is believed to be more in the range of 1 girl to every 4 boys. As professionals become more familiar with the diagnostic criteria, more females appear to be receiving the HFA diagnosis.

Generally, it is believed that females experience a much milder form of the difficulties associated with HFA. American society emphasizes and pushes females to develop strong social skills at an early age. This may benefit females with HFA by helping them learn compensatory skills or address any deficits earlier in life.

Alternatively, it has been suggested that females use different coping strategies when dealing with social situations. Females tend to hide in social situations, and remain on the periphery. This allows them to observe the behaviors of others, and once comfortable with the process, to mimic those behaviors (e.g., facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice).

Doll play allows younger females to re-experience social situations, replay them, alter them, and learn from them. Females also often have invisible friends (a safe tool to use when practicing social skills). Among females, HFA may express itself more through immaturity. Topics of special interest also may not be as intense as the interests exhibited by males.

Areas of special interest for girls seem to be different from those of boys. Their preoccupations center more on animals and classical literature. The long-term prognosis for females with HFA also seems better than for males, largely because of their ability to hide their difficulties from others over time.

Some very popular books specifically related to girls on the autism spectrum include the following:

More resources for parents of children and teens with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism:

==> Parenting System that Reduces Problematic Behavior in Children with Asperger's and High-Functioning Autism


Anonymous said... Thank you for this post. I completely agree with what you are saying. I may very well be a woman with HFA, and reading this was like looking back in time at my childhood. I didn't have an imaginary friend but I had a lot of animal friends and an extreme interest and preoccupation with people and why they acted as they did and what made them who they were. I spent years watching people closely and learning how to mimic their behaviors to fit in a little better. This article brings up some valid and important points. I hope lots of people will read and learn from it.

Anonymous said...My daughter was recently diagnosed with Asperger's at 5 years old. I am a special eduction teacher and know what to look out for. The doctor that tested her for HFA shared girls who present like my daughter are typically diagnosed in high school when social situations become much more complicated. I am so pleased to be getting the additional support now because there are great resources like speech therapy, OT, and social skills groups. These professionals and programs are wonderful and have helped my daughter, my husband and myself become a much happier household! 

My child has been rejected by his peers, ridiculed and bullied !!!

Social rejection has devastating effects in many areas of functioning. Because the ASD child tends to internalize how others treat him, rejection damages self-esteem and often causes anxiety and depression. As the child feels worse about himself and becomes more anxious and depressed – he performs worse, socially and intellectually.

Click here to read the full article…

How to Prevent Meltdowns in Children on the Spectrum

Meltdowns are not a pretty sight. They are somewhat like overblown temper tantrums, but unlike tantrums, meltdowns can last anywhere from ten minutes to over an hour. When it starts, the Asperger's or HFA child is totally out-of-control. When it ends, both you and your child are totally exhausted. But... don’t breathe a sigh of relief yet. At the least provocation, for the remainder of that day -- and sometimes into the next - the meltdown can return in full force.

Click here for the full article...

Parenting Defiant Teens on the Spectrum

Although Aspergers [high-functioning autism] is at the milder end of the autism spectrum, the challenges parents face when disciplining a teenager on the spectrum are more difficult than they would be with an average teen. Complicated by defiant behavior, the teen is at risk for even greater difficulties on multiple levels – unless the parents’ disciplinary techniques are tailored to their child's special needs.

Click here to read the full article…

Older Teens and Young Adult Children with ASD Still Living At Home

Your older teenager or young “adult child” isn’t sure what to do, and he is asking you for money every few days. How do you cut the purse strings and teach him to be independent? Parents of teens with ASD face many problems that other parents do not. Time is running out for teaching their adolescent how to become an independent adult. As one mother put it, "There's so little time, yet so much left to do."

Click here to read the full article…

Parenting Children and Teens with High-Functioning Autism

Two traits often found in kids with High-Functioning Autism are “mind-blindness” (i.e., the inability to predict the beliefs and intentions of others) and “alexithymia” (i.e., the inability to identify and interpret emotional signals in others). These two traits reduce the youngster’s ability to empathize with peers. As a result, he or she may be perceived by adults and other children as selfish, insensitive and uncaring.

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to read the full article...

Highly Effective Research-Based Parenting Strategies for Children with Asperger's and HFA

Become an expert in helping your child cope with his or her “out-of-control” emotions, inability to make and keep friends, stress, anger, thinking errors, and resistance to change.

Click here for the full article...

My Aspergers Child - Syndicated Content